Start at The Root

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Your hair is a great barometer of your general health. A receding hairline or excessive hair fall might point to a deeper problem. Faye Remedios helps you get to the bottom of it

No you can’t judge a person by the bumps on her head, but you can judge her health by the condition of her hair. Dr Kiran Lohia, medical director, Lumiere Dermatology, Delhi says, “The condition of your hair and health are hugely intertwined. This is because your hair’s microcirculation is highly dependent on your hormones being stable, and also on your body being nutritionally sound.” In small but significant ways, your hair is telling you what to pay attention to. Here’s how to listen with care.

HAIR FALL = IRON DEFICIENCY

It’s normal for dead hair to fall and be replaced. So a loss of 50-100 strands daily is normal. But when hair loss exceeds this number, it’s referred to as pathological hair loss and is a cause for concern. “There can be several factors such as heredity, disease, iron deficiency, fatigue or classic seasonal hair loss,” says Michel Baltazar, technical director, Jean-Claude Biguine. It can also point to a thyroid problem or stress. “After childbirth, nearly all women suffer from hair fall. When it comes to nutrition, iron stores are hugely important for hair strength. If your iron stores are low, even if your hemoglobin is normal, you can suffer from hair fall. Protein deficiency is also a known cause of hair thinning and breakage,” says Dr Lohia. Michel suggests consulting a professional hairdresser who will need to examine your hair, density and the appearance of the scalp, and will recommend the right products to stimulate growth. They might advise you to go to the doctor as a blood test could establish the reason for your hair loss, or even a nutritionist to get your diet sorted. Irrespective of the reason, a hairstylist or a doctor will definitely advise making your lifestyle a bit saner as stress certainly does not help the problem.

THINNING COVERAGE = LIFESTYLE DISORDERS

“Hair thinning can be caused by a multitude of problems, including too many hair treatments, damaging hair habits, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal problems like PCOS. It could also be a genetic issue or caused by ageing,” says Dr Lohia. She advises checking with your doctor to determine the cause. “Post this diagnosis, a variety of methods are available to treat the issue, including PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy to balance the system. It can also be caused by a condition called chronic telogen effluvium, which is a type of excess hair shedding in women lasting longer than six months, and needs to be treated appropriately,” she warns.

ITCHY, SCALY SCALP = FATIGUE

An itchy scalp can point to low sebum levels. Michel says it may indicate a skin disease such as eczema or psoriasis. “The cause may be stress, fatigue or an allergy to certain substances in haircare products,” he adds. Kiran says that it can even be iron deficiency, and suggests identifying the cause, then getting it treated. “Only a dermatologist can diagnose the issue and prescribe the right medication. There are hundreds of diseases that present themselves as scaly patches—so visiting a doctor is vital.”

SPLIT ENDS = TRESS STRESS

Lack of keratin causes split ends and there are several reasons for this. “It can happen if the hair is worked too hard while heat styling without any application of a heat protectant product or if your dryer is too strong or too close to the hair strands during a blow-dry. Other causes are rubbing of the hair on the pillow when you sleep or for long hair, rubbing against clothing,” says Michel. Cut down on extensive hair treatments like colouring and blow-drying. Too much hair trauma causes split ends and breakage. Heal your locks with regular oiling or treatments like Olaplex, which reconnects broken disulfide sulfur bonds in the hair. “These bonds are broken during thermal, mechanical and chemical services, and the Bond Multiplying System works as a reset button for hair, rebuilding the strength, structure and integrity of your strands,” explains Ankit Arora, CEO, Streamline Services India, which has introduced the brand in India.

ROUGH TEXTURE = HORMONAL IMBALANCE

We do not have the same hair we are born with, and often, the texture changes every 10 to 15 years on account of fluctuations in hormone levels, medical conditions and food intake. To remedy this, Dr Lohia advises checking
your hormone levels and rectifying any issues with the help of experts.

PREMATURE GREYING= VITAMIN B DEFICIENCY

Grey hair is the result of a drop in melanin levels. This is the pigment that gives colour to the hair, and everyone loses it at a different rate, which is why you’ll see some 25-year-olds with salt and pepper hair while
some 50-year-olds are still all pepper. “But if you suddenly find your hair greying and you are under 35, this could also be due to a lack of vitamin B,” says Michel. “Also, check your thyroid. Low thyroid can cause hair whitening,” says Dr Lohia.

DULL HAIR = BAD DIET

You’re either eating too much junk food or are dehydrated. “Include lots of vegetables, fruits and proteins in your diet, and stay away from foods that increase cortisol levels in the system, such as refined sugars or maida,” advises Dr Lohia. Michel says it could also be on account of UV rays from the sun, using the wrong shampoo or a loss of keratin. “Avoid all products, shampoos or conditioners containing silicone or paraffin. These substances might make your hair shine but eventually, they will tarnish it more. Do not abuse either anti-dandruff or volumising shampoos, they all contain ingredients that will in time deplete the keratin in your hair,” cautions Michel.

HAIR COMMANDMENTS

Michel Baltazar, creative technical director, Jean-Claude Biguine, lists the rules to follow for a healthy mane.

Dos

  • Choose a shampoo or conditioner meant for your hair with the help of a professional hairdresser.
  • Use a thermal protector before drying or straightening your hair.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid super-tight hairstyles that promote breakage or hair loss. or alternate with more relaxed hairstyles.

Don’ts

  • Do not wash hair too often as this dries out the hair causing it to re-grease faster.
  • Avoid shampoos that contain too much sodium sulfate as it damages the hair.
  • Do not untangle hair with a brush, especially wet hair, which is more elastic and prone to breakage. Also, do not brush too often. Once in the morning and once at night is more than enough. Avoid vigorously rubbing hair as this weakens the strands. Towel dry hair delicately.
  • Do not wash hair with water that’s too hot or too cold. This can burn or activate overproductionof sebum on the scalp.
  • Avoid applying hair oil before exposure to heat such as the sun or a hair iron as this can damage the hair. There are special heat-resistant oils for this purpose

PHOTOGRAPHS: SHUTTERSTOCK

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